By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2811

Tory scabbing plans are a recipe for more rail disasters

A series of near accidents on the first day of the rail strikes prove the danger of Tory plans to use agency workers as scabs
Issue 2811
a screenshot of train time tables demonstrating wrongly rerouted trains on the first day of the rail strikes

Multiple trains sent in the wrong direction by stand-in staff during the first day of the rail strikes (Picture: TSSA)

As the Tories talk about using scab agency workers to cover for rail strikers, there’s already terrifying evidence of how this risks catastrophic crashes.

On the first strike day, Tuesday, stand-in staff sent multiple trains in the wrong direction. Others told trains to leave stations when signals were on red. These could have caused deaths. The summary above shows trains wrongly routed, delays due to signaller error and safe system of working issues. These are all from the strike day on 21 June.

An RMT union member told Socialist Worker, “The government is desperate to prove the strikes aren’t really effective. That sees Network Rail and the train operating companies pushed to get as many services running as possible. It’s unsafe and it’s reckless when you have people who aren’t fully ready for the job in charge of thousands of passengers’ lives.” 

The TSSA union said, “Trains being wrong routed can cause serious safety incidents if trains are sent onto unfit rails. The union also had reports of line blockages where signal boxes had been left closed and safety warning signals not engaged to alert train drivers.”

There were reports of managers trying to dispatch a train against a red signal. That led to the managers reportedly tested for alcohol and drugs as a result.

The RMT member said, “These sort of incidents are very rare. There is a real fuss when they happen, and quite right too. There’s a big effort to work out the cause and to learn from that. Well, here the cause is easy to see. It’s the wrong staff in critical places. I would be very concerned if you had agency people coming in to do these jobs.”

Chillingly, when unveiling its scab worker proposals, the Tory government said, “Skilled temporary workers would be able to fill vacant positions such as train dispatchers”. It acknowledged they “perform vital tasks such as giving train drivers the signal they are safe to proceed and making sure train doors aren’t obstructed”. 

“During this week’s strikes, that role has had to be carried out by train managers,” it said. “They could have been better used in more safety critical roles, such as guards.”

It’s a recipe for unsafe working. The rail workers are rightly fighting for their own pay and jobs. But they are also confronting a Tory government and a management that will take risks to break a strike.

Join your local rail strikers’ solidarity rally

Birmingham: 10am New Street station

Brighton: 3pm railway station

Bristol: 12 noon, outside Knights Templar pub near Temple Meads station

Cardiff: 12 noon Central station

Coventry: 11.30am  Coventry station

Glasgow: 10am Buchanan Steps

Hastings: 12 noon, Hastings station

Huddersfield: 9am Huddersfield station

Ipswich: 10am at the station

Liverpool: 12 noon, Lime Street station main steps

London: King’s Cross station 2pm

Manchester: 2.30pm, Cathedral Gardens

Nottingham: 12 noon, Station St 

Norwich: 10am, at the station

Portsmouth: 10am Portsmouth Harbour station

Sheffield: 11am, railway station


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